The biggest city parks in the world are the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of life in the world’s big cities.
By definition, urban parks, often called city parks, are parks located within the municipal or metropolitan boundaries of a town or city. The importance of urban parks was recognised as early as the sixteenth century. Historically, the first designated urban park is believed to be the Alameda de Hércules in the Spanish city of Seville, established in 1574. This pioneering concept of setting aside public land for recreation and enjoyment laid the groundwork for urban parks worldwide.
Since then, urban parks have evolved, and the biggest city parks in the world now play a crucial role in urban planning and sustainable city development. They act as key elements in combating pollution, providing eco-friendly transportation routes, and serving as venues for cultural and community events.
Some of the most famous urban parks in the world – Central Park in New York, Regent’s Park in London, and Centennial Park in Sydney to name but a few – are in fact dwarfed by the world’s biggest urban parks.
Here are the contenders for the world’s biggest urban park measured in acres and square kilometres.
Lee Valley Regional Park
Location: London, UK | Size (acres): 10,000 | Size (square km.): 40.4
Lee Valley isn’t the world’s biggest urban park, but it is the biggest of its kind in the UK. Situated within Greater London, it follows the 42 kilometre course of the River Lee, from the town of Ware in Hertfordshire, all the way down to the East India Docks, close to the Isle of Dogs on the River Thames.
The park offers an incredibly diverse mix of running, walking and cycling routes, nature and wildlife reserves and gardens and heritage sites, as well as sports facilities, such as fishing, cycling, horse riding, ice skating and even white water rafting.
Appian Way Regional Park
Location: Rome, Italy | Size (acres): 11,317 | Size (square km.): 45.7
One of the largest urban parks in Europe, the Appian Way Regional Park includes part of the famous Appian Way, partly built by Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus in the third century BC, which connects Rome with the southern city of Brindisi.
The park is also home to some of the most famous relics of the Roman Republic and the Empire outside of the city centre, including the Villa of the Quintilii, the Park of the Caffarella, and the Parco degli Acquedotti, or the Aqueduct Park, containing part of the original Aqua Claudia built by Roman emperors Caligula and Claudius.
Location: Lahore, Pakistan | Size (acres): 12,515 | Size (square km.): 50.6
One of the world’s oldest and largest man-made forests, Changa Manga, named after two nineteenth century bandits, was created in 1866 to provide timber and fuel for the construction of the North Western State Railway. Today, it’s one of the world’s biggest urban parks, a vital wildlife reserve and home to dozens of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Losiny Ostrov National Park
Location: Moscow, Russia | Size (acres): 28,664 | Size (square km.): 116
One of the largest city parks in the world and the largest in Europe, Losiny Ostrov National Park was established in 1983. Since the fourteenth century the land was the exclusive domain of Russia’s tsars and Grand Princes to be used as hunting grounds, but in the early nineteenth century the land came under the control of the forestry department. Over 80% of Losiny Ostrov is heavily forested, and it’s one of the few places in Moscow where wildlife, including elk, wild boars, red foxes and hares, run free.
Table Mountain National Park
Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Size (acres): 54,610 | Size (square km.): 221
Formally proclaimed in 1998 by South African president Nelson Mandela, the Cape Peninsula National Park, renamed to Table Mountain National Park, is the biggest in South Africa and one of the world’s largest urban parks.
It’s home to two of the country’s most famous natural landmarks, Table Mountain, and the Cape of Good Hope, which was originally named Cabo das Tormentas, or the Cape of Storms, by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias.
The park is home to rare and endemic flora such as Sandstone and Cape Granite Fynbos, as well as mammals including the Cape Mountain zebra, the elf-eared caracal cat, the Chacma baboon, and the water mongoose.
Location: Quebec, Canada | Size (acres): 89,025 | Size (square km.): 360.2
Banff National Park in Alberta is one of the largest city parks in the world, and has a perimeter of 179 kilometres. It’s home to rich and diverse ecosystems including over fifty lakes. Visitors can see a wide range of flora and fauna including dozens of mammal species, over two hundred different bird species, a thousand vascular plant species and fifty different species of trees. The park was established in 1938 and was the world’s first national park created by the world’s first dedicated parks service, known as the Dominion Parks Branch.
Chugach State Park
Location: Alaska, USA | Size (acres): 495,199 | Size (square km.): 2,004
The world’s biggest urban park was established in 1970 to the east of the city of Anchorage. It was created to protect the Chugach Mountains and to offer recreational activities, which today includes 450 kilometres of summer hiking and cycling trails, and almost 180 kilometres of cross-country skiing and snow machine routes in the winter.
While CSP is huge, it’s only the third-largest state park in the USA, behind Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California (approx. 586,000 acres | 2,370 square km.) and Wood-Tikchik State Park in Alaska (approx. 1,600,000 acres | 6,474 square km.)
The Enduring Legacy of the World’s Biggest Urban Parks
The largest city parks in the world are more than just expansive green spaces in the heart of bustling cities. They are vital lungs for urban environments, cultural icons, and cherished communal spaces that connect people with nature and with each other.
These parks demonstrate the extraordinary ability of urban planning to blend natural beauty with the needs of a growing population, offering a sanctuary for wildlife, a playground for residents and visitors, and a canvas for environmental and cultural expression.